Setting the stage
Open Space Technology and Real Time Strategic Change are distinct methodologies for creating conferences that maximise learning, inspiration, interaction, community spirit and co‑creation.
In this article I will use the following abbreviations:
OST: Open Space Technology—the principles and protocols that underpin an Open Space conference.
OS: Open Space.
RTSC: Real Time Strategic Change.
Although both methodologies came into existence in 1985 (RTSC was then known as Large Group Interactive Process), they are founded on very different philosophies and work in two very different ways.
My comments about RTSC apply equally to Whole-Scale™, which also evolved from Large Group Interactive Process.
OST has its roots in myth, ritual and culture, with particular emphasis on African and Native American tribal traditions.
RTSC emerged from the field of organisation development, largely informed by the work of psychologists Kurt Lewin, Ron Lippitt, Fred Emery and Eric Trist, behavioural scientist Eva Schindler-Rainman, and organisation development pioneer Richard Beckhard.
OST was originally conceived as a way of creating a better alternative to traditional conferences that feature ‘sage on the stage’ presentations and programmes of concurrent workshops. It was not used in organisations until four years after its inception [view evidence], and its early deployment in the organisational realm was for the generation of ideas (What recommendations do you have for senior management?) and insights (What are you thinking and feeling about the issue in hand?).
RTSC was conceived as a methodology for designing and deploying organisational change interventions through the medium of Engage & Co-create conferences, and this purpose has persisted throughout the 28 years of its existence.
OS conferences are loosely orchestrated, allowing participants a high degree of autonomy. The focus is on self organisation, productive conversations and emergent developments, rather than the achievement of pre-determined outcomes.
RTSC conferences are tightly orchestrated. Participants spend their time together working through a series of activities that have been carefully designed to achieve a set of specific outcomes. The results emerging from an RTSC conference become inputs into a larger programme of strategic organisational work.
Despite these significant differences, the two approaches are complementary. Each compensates for the relative weaknesses of the other.
There are very few OS conferences that could not be improved by the inclusion of some RTSC‑based activities, and vice-versa. (See indicative example)
The stage is now set.
A discovery with profound implications for Open Space and Real Time Strategic Change conferences
The maximum group size for effective dialogue is five people.
Academic research shows that in five-person groups, the communication is like dialogue, whereas in 10-person groups, the communication is like monologue.
He has discovered that the ideal group size for effective dialogue is four people. If four is not an option, then three. If neither of these is an option, then five.
We must remember to take these findings into account when designing meetings, workshops and conferences, including those employing OS and RTSC.
Towards more effective Open Space Technology conferences
I began working with this method in 1988, three years after its inception. I have run Open Space conferences throughout the world for a very wide range of organisations, and for many different purposes.
Over the course of three decades, very little has changed in the way Open Space conferences are designed and facilitated.
Many Open Space professionals continue to talk about the approach as though it’s new, mystical, and not for the faint hearted.
In fact, the method will be 30 years old in 2015. There’s nothing mysterious or magical about Open Space, although the results can sometimes appear to be miraculous. It’s extremely practical and robust. And the risks really aren’t that great.
The most significant development was probably the fifth principle, Wherever it happens is the right place, which Open Space originator Harrison Owen announced in 2011.
What are the limitations of the Open Space methodology, and how might they be overcome?
RTSC conferences, unlike OS conferences, are designed by a team whose members are drawn from a ‘diagonal slice’ of the organisation, meaning that they represent different levels of seniority and different functional affiliations, as shown in this graphic:
Traditionally, Open Space conferences are not designed by such a team, but I believe they should be.
The design team will typically include:
- The person with day to day responsibility for the conference.
- The person responsible for the logistics of the gathering.
- A selection of people who will be taking part in the Open Space meeting (see ‘diagonal slice’ graphic). It can be very useful to include a sceptic.
- The Open Space consultant / facilitator.
The group may also include a member of the client organisation’s senior leadership team.
Any conference design is the organisers’ best guess at what will be an effective programme. It is a work of fiction. A cross-functional, through-the-levels team is better able to create a design that will survive first contact with reality.
Listed below are some of the many questions the design team will need to answer. This is not an exhaustive checklist.
What is the purpose of the conference?
What makes us think that Open Space is the right approach for this conference? What other approaches have been considered, and why were they rejected? Is there a case for combining the non-orchestrated Open Space approach with the orchestrated Real Time Strategic Change approach?
Is it part of a larger programme of work? If so, how will any actions initiated during the conference be taken forward?
Are there any specific outcomes that need to emerge from the conference?
Is the sponsor prepared for the possibility that these outcomes may not come to pass?
Who will open the conference?
Who will facilitate it? Internal or external facilitator?
Who will be responsible for conference logistics?
Do we need any stewards for the conference? Should we call for volunteers?
Who needs to take part in the conference?
What will we do about those who need to take part in the conference but are unable to do so?
Do we need to begin the conference with any non-Open Space activities?
What are the venue requirements?
How will we go about finding a suitable venue?
What date options do we have?
When a venue has been identified, who will inspect it?
How many sessions do we think the group will produce? (Answering this is not an exact science. Twice the number of participants will not generate twice the number of sessions.)
How does this translate into number of rounds of Open Space, and number of places for people to meet?
Will we use breakout rooms, or will we rearrange the seating into small circles of chairs?
Should we use the traditional session sign-up process, or ask for a show of hands, or handle this in some other way?
Do we need written reports from the Open Space sessions?
Who needs to see these reports? How will this come about?
Do we need verbal report backs?
Do we need an action planning session?
What resources are needed, and how will these be acquired?
What is the provisional conference timetable? How will this become the actual timetable?
What is our production timetable?
It is common practice for Open Space facilitators to decorate the walls of the main room with posters showing hand-drawn butterflies (representing people who do not attend sessions but attract others to form ad-hoc discussion groups) and bumblebees (representing people who flit from one session to another, cross-pollinating conversations). Another poster will show a set of footprints, and may include the words The Law of Two Feet.
What is the purpose of these posters? They make the room resemble a kindergarten and do not add any value.
Although I used the footprints poster in earlier days, drawings of butterflies and bumblebees have never made an appearance. I have never considered them necessary.
Open Space principles
Are the Open Space principles still relevant?
Open Space came into being in 1985 (it was renamed Open Space Technology in 1989) as a way of running a more effective learning conference—the kind that some people now call an unconference.
The Open Space principles, which are listed below, still make a certain amount of sense when considered in this context.
In 1989, businesses began to use Open Space to address organisational issues in a collaborative manner—for the purpose that I am now calling the Engage & Co-create. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the principles have little or no relevance in this second context.
I participated in the ‘Business of Business is Learning’ Open Space gathering in 1989 in Goa India. This was the first time Open Space came out of the ‘Organization Transformation’ closet and was used with a multicultural group of business executives and organizational consultants.
The genesis of Open Space Technology is covered in my article, The origins of organization transformation and the Organization Transformation Symposia.
Let’s review the five principles and see how each of them applies to Learn & Connect conferences (how Open Space began) and Engage & Co-create conferences (what Open Space became).
I hope the distinction is clear. A Learn & Connect conference enables attendees to learn new stuff and meet new people. An Engage & Co-create’ conference is convened by an organisation to enable its employees and other stakeholders to work together on an issue of mutual concern.
Principle 1: Whoever comes is [sic] the right people
This principle is designed to make the convenor (or host, or whatever term you prefer) of the Open Space breakout session feel better if only a few people show up. “Sure, your session only had three participants, but they were the right three.”
Here’s a typical Open Space scenario: A participant hosts a session with the title Let’s Rethink Our Intranet.
Six people decide to take part in the session. The person with responsibility for the company’s intranet does not take part. Why? Because she is not present at the Open Space conference at all. She is speaking at a conference in Amsterdam.
Following the Open Space conference, the session convenor emails a copy of the session report to the head of intranet, who is offended by what seem to be critical comments. Nothing further happens.
Whoever comes is not necessarily the right people.
Principle 2: Wherever it happens is the right place
The organisers of an Open Space conference anticipate 20 sessions. This is translated into four timeslots and five places to meet. On the day, 21 sessions are announced. Consistent with good Open Space practice, the facilitator does not reject the ‘surplus’ session. Instead, he suggests that it be held in the hotel garden. It’s a sunny day and everyone is delighted with this solution. This is an example of Principle 2 working effectively.
A participant hosts a session on a hot topic, and 25 people choose to take part in it. When everyone arrives at the designated room, they find a circle of 10 chairs. The session convenor searches for extra chairs, but none can be found. The other three sessions are in full swing and cannot be disturbed. The session begins with 10 people seated and another 10 standing. Five people have already lost patience and used the Law of Two Feet. Fifteen minutes into the session, another five of the standing people shuffle off.
The place where it happened was not the right place.
Principle 3: Whenever it starts is the right time
A round of Open Space sessions is scheduled to start at 1100, but one of the meeting rooms is hard to find and the session doesn’t get started until 1115. Some people apologise for their late arrival. The session leader reminds people that “Whenever it starts is the right time” and everyone feels a bit more relaxed.
The agenda creation and sign-up process is complete at 1045, and the first round of sessions is not scheduled to start until 1100. A convenor of an 1100 session arrives at the breakout room at the appointed time, only to discover that the session started 10 minutes early and important matters have already been discussed.
When it started was not the right time.
The sponsors of an Open Space conference want certain outcomes to emerge, and have come to terms with the fact that this may or may not happen.
I believe that each participant should maintain awareness of these outcomes throughout the conference. This awareness should extend to the conscious use of time and space, such as starting meetings on time (because people are aware that time is limited) and not letting them overrun (because they are aware that other people need the space).
Principle 4: Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
This principle seems to be designed to get the conference hosts and the facilitator off the hook when complaints come their way. “You’re unhappy with the shambolic nature of the session you joined? The wrong people were in the room? The session started early? You had to hold it in a broom cupboard? You couldn’t get a word in edgeways? Well, that’s how it rolls in Open Space. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” Add the words “Que Sera Sera” and you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a new mystical philosophy.
Engage & Co-create conferences are convened for a particular purpose, such as having employees figure out how to implement the new strategy. The organisation hosting the conference is looking for creative thinking, smart decisions and practical actions.
If someone convenes a session that turns out to be fruitless, I don’t think it’s acceptable for the convenor to say with a shrug, “Whatever happened was the only thing that could have”. An infinite number of things could have happened, but this is what happened. The convenor and the participants cannot determine what happens during an Open Space session, but they can exert a strong influence.
Adapting the serenity prayer:
God¹ grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot control;
Strength to control the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
¹ Whatever this word means to you
Principle 5: When it’s over, it’s over
The purpose of this principle is to encourage people to take responsibility for how they use their time during an Open Space conference. The principle is saying that if the allotted time for a session is 60 minutes, and 45 minutes into the session everything that needs to be said has been said, the right thing to do is declare the session over and suggest that everyone uses the remaining 15 minutes doing something constructive, such as joining another session.
This principle goes together with the Law of Two Feet. Both are saying: “Use the available time mindfully. Don’t squander it.”
I don’t have any issues with this final principle (or with the Law of Two Feet, for that matter), as long as we add the words—as some Open Space practitioners do—“and when it’s not over, it’s not over”.
The suffix “and when it’s not over, it’s not over” acknowledges that 60 minutes (in the earlier example) may not be enough time for people to complete the work that needs to be done. Should this be the case, the session convenor has three main options:
- Continue the discussion during the next round of Open Space sessions. People would need to be prepared to change their plans, and a meeting place would need to be found.
- Continue the discussion over lunch or during a break.
- Continue the discussion after the Open Space conference, by email, telephone or video conference.
Alternatives to the five Open Space principles
One option is to abandon explicit principles altogether. In 1985, they were liberating. Today, a recitation of the principles is a meaningless ritual. When I’m facilitating an Open Space conference, I will only mention the principles if the client insists.
Another option is to use the PRESTO (People, Resources, Events, Time, Space, Obstacles) mnemonic. This can be used privately by the facilitator, or made explicit and extended not just to session convenors but to all participants.
At an Open Space gathering, people create events (conversations, ideas, insights, decisions, plans etc.) in time and space.
In order to create these events effectively, people usually need resources: flipchart, marker pens, Post-it Notes, sticky tape and so on.
What we want to foster in Open Space participants is an acute awareness of People, Resources, Events, Space, Time, and Obstacles requiring removal.
Who is here? What are the implications?
Who is not here? What are the implications?
How can we include those who need to be here but aren’t?
What resources do we need?
What resources are available?
How can we acquire the resources we need?
What’s about to happen?
What’s not happening that needs to happen? How can this be brought forth?
What’s happening that’s getting in the way? (See also Obstacles below.)
Space and Time
What space and time do we need?
What do we have?
How can we get the space and time we need?
What is preventing us from having a productive session?
How can we remove these obstacles?
The effectiveness of Open Space Technology could possibly be increased if PRESTO were the mantra for all concerned—before, during and after the Open Space conference.
At a one-day Open Space conference, the normal procedure is that, following the facilitator’s briefing, participants create the agenda for the entire day.
There are two flaws in this procedure.
- Emergence is minimised. Imagine this scenario: A conference participant invites people to a session scheduled for 2 p.m. She joins an 11 a.m. session on a related topic. During the discussion, she realises that the title of her 2 p.m. session needs to be changed. But the die has been cast. People have already created their personal programmes for the day. They have no reason to revisit the agenda wall unless they have used the Law of Two Feet and are seeking an alternative session.
- Community spirit is diminished. The group only comes together as a whole on two occasions: at the beginning of the conference, and towards the end (around 4.30 p.m. in this example).
How to fix (if fixing is called for)
Staying with the same example, during the post-briefing agenda creation session, only create the agenda for the 11 a.m. sessions.
At 1.30 p.m., create the agenda for the second round of sessions.
At 3 p.m., create the agenda for the third round of sessions.
Unless the duration of the conference is extended, holding two additional agenda creation sessions will reduce the length of the three rounds (in our example) of Open Space sessions. But if emergence is considered essential, the time investment will be rewarded.
This has become my default procedure:
After the facilitator’s briefing session, participants create the agenda for all three rounds of sessions, as per the official version of Open Space Technology set out by Harrison Owen in his book Open Space Technology: A Users Guide, and outlined in my Open Space Technology article.
In the example we’re using, the whole group meets after lunch at the agenda wall, and the facilitator asks:
“Is this still how you want to spend your time together this afternoon? Does anyone want to withdraw their session? Does anyone want to add a new session or change the title of an existing one?”
This process will take about 15 minutes, and there’s rarely a case for not including it.
In the official version of Open Space, when the agenda wall has been created (you can see it here, in the background), everyone goes to the wall and writes their name on the posters advertising the sessions that have attracted their interest.
The facilitator explains that no one is making a firm commitment to taking part in those sessions. A handwritten name is simply an expression of interest: “perhaps”, not “for sure”.
What then is the purpose of the sign-up process?
If the convenor of a session sees no names on their poster, they can withdraw their session, and they are now free to take part in someone else’s session.
So people’s names are not required. A tick or sticky dot would be sufficient.
Or scrap the sign-up process altogether and replace it with a show of hands.
I once facilitated an Open Space conference where the 400 participants were positioned in theatre-style seating. This made it impossible to use the sign-up process.
As I announced each session, people raised their hands to express their interest. Numbers of hands were then translated into small, medium and large space requirements by my colleague, who allocated small, medium and large meeting places. The process worked.
If a convenor sees a large number of names on their poster, they know a large capacity meeting place is needed.
This only makes sense if the Post-it Note shows the capacity of the meeting place. (I always do this when using the Post-it Note space allocation method.)
The convenor sees 30 ticks/dots, and also notices that Room 1 can only accommodate 20 people.
So he or she knows it is necessary to find a larger capacity room, perhaps by doing a swap with a convenor who has chosen a 30-capacity room but has only attracted six ticks/dots.
I don’t have much to say about this aspect of an Open Space conference, other than to mention that it’s now quite common (in the UK, at least) for the big circle of chairs to be reconfigured into a number of small circles, and for these to be used in place of breakout rooms. Each small circle should be equipped with a flipchart and marker pens.
Do not write the meeting place name (A, B, C, D, E etc.) on the flipchart pad, as it will disappear the moment the sheet is flipped. It needs to remain clearly visible throughout the session. Print it onto an A4 sheet, landscape orientation, and display it where people will easily see it. For instance, tape it to bottom of the flipchart frame, as shown here:
Maximum group size
How can the Open Space process be modified to take account of ‘maximum group size is five’?
One of the Open Space principles is “Whoever comes is the right people”.
This means that the participant-initiated breakout groups—I call them ‘sessions’—can be composed of any number of people.
Perhaps no one will show up. Perhaps 50 people will.
I was present at an Open Space conference where one breakout group was so large that the organisers had to hastily rig up a PA system.
Here is my proposed process for sessions with more than five participants. It is based on the Gurteen Knowledge Café format.
The session convenor (or host, if you prefer) poses a provocative question. The titles of Open Space sessions are often framed as questions, so this is not such a wild idea.
People then organise themselves into small groups of no more than five people per group (ideally four per group).
These small groups discuss the provocative question for 50% of the time allotted to the session.
At the end of this time period, the groups merge and continue the discussion for the remainder of the allotted time.
If deemed necessary by the Open Space sponsors, any significant insights can be captured for later sharing, either during or after the Open Space conference.
Session reports and report backs
Open Space session reports are often a waste of time and effort.
(Yes, there are exceptions.)
Those who took part in the breakout session already know what was discussed and therefore don’t need a report.
Those who didn’t take part will get little or no value from the inevitable list of hastily scribbled bullet points.
Often, all that’s needed is a summary of key insights and any action points.
These can be announced during a one-minute-per-person rapid report back session that takes place shortly before the conclusion of the conference.
There are no report backs in the textbook version of Open Space, but they are usually vital in Engage & Co-create conferences as they are the prelude to action planning. (See next item.)
Action planning, project initiation and post-conference implementation
Although Harrison Owen touches on the subject of action planning in his book Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, this is really an addition to the Open Space process, rather than an integral part of it.
The rounds of Open Space sessions are unorchestrated. There is no conductor. But the action planning process must be orchestrated. This is where Open Space morphs into Real Time Strategic Change.
What follows is a highly effective action planning and project initiation process that I developed through extensive on-the-job experimentation. In case you are interested, it is partly informed by Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model.
Action planning and project initiation process
The purpose of the project initiation process is to ensure that any projects emerging from the Open Space meeting have the best possible chance of success.
The project initiation process ensures that the projects find their way onto the formal business agenda, it creates a direct link with the organisation’s resource allocation process, and it guarantees that the projects receive ongoing management attention.
The process consists of six steps:
- Summarise actions
- Prioritise actions
- Formation of project teams
- Inaugural meeting of project teams
- Presentation of project team decisions
- Inaugural meeting of project co-ordination team
Step 1. Summarise actions
The large group sits in a circle and a volunteer from each Open Space session announces the actions and projects that emerged from the session. The facilitator lists them on flipchart paper. A management representative, who has participated fully in the Open Space conference, points out any projects that are clearly ‘no hopers’ so that the group can consider withdrawing them.
Time required: 15 to 30 minutes.
Step 2. Prioritise actions
Participants use sticky dots or Neuland sticky hearts (five to ten per person) to indicate the tasks and projects for which they have the most energy for following through. The purpose of this activity is to identify a small number of hot projects to which everyone, management included, is able to give their full support.
Time required: 15 to 30 minutes.
Step 3. Formation of project teams
Following the prioritisation session participants organise themselves into project teams. Each project team appoints a co-ordinator who, on behalf of the team, is accountable to management for good stewardship of any resources that may be made available.
Time required: 10 minutes.
Step 4. Inaugural meeting of project teams.
The project teams meet to decide the following:
- The goal of the project and the target completion date
- Roles and responsibilities
- The key challenges the team faces in achieving the goal
- The critical resources required to achieve the goal
- The main steps, including the next step (by whom and by when)
Time required: 20 to 45 minutes.
Step 5. Presentation of outline project plan
This is a plenary session in which each project team presents its outline project plan. The management representative says how any resourcing issues will be addressed.
Time required: 2 to 5 minutes per action team.
Step 6. Inaugural meeting of project co-ordination team
All project team co-ordinators become members of the project co-ordination team. The purpose of this team is to monitor progress and keep everyone informed of what’s happening (and what’s not happening).
At this first meeting, which takes place using the ‘fishbowl’ format (outlined below), the co-ordinators declare:
- Which of them will be lead co-ordinator (this person acts as the focal point and ‘chief whip’).
- How and when they will communicate with each other.
- How they will keep everyone informed of overall progress (everyone = project team members and the rest of the organisation, including senior management).
Everyone except the project co-ordination team sits in a circle, in total silence. The project co-ordination team holds its meeting in the centre of the circle, witnessed by the members of the silent outer circle.
There are two reasons for using this format:
- It saves a lot of time.
- It has symbolic significance: the co-ordination team is openly voicing its commitment to keeping everything moving forward.
A member of the senior management team is invited to join the project co-ordination team as an equal member (not its leader). This establishes a direct link between the project and the management agenda.
Time required: 15 minutes.
Towards more effective Real Time Strategic Change conferences
Why has Real Time Strategic Change not been more widely adopted?
Although RTSC has been around for almost as long as Open Space Technology (Robert W. Jacobs’ book was published in 1994), and, like OST, is in the public domain, it is nowhere near as well known or widely used.
These are some of the possible reasons:
The name is long and hard to pronounce. I still find it a bit of a mouthful.
Real Time Strategic Change is a philosophy and a set of principles, rather than a step-by-step method. People generally find step-by-step methods easier to understand and use.
The book says fixed format conferences, right down to indicative timings, but in his training programmes and writings, Robert W. Jacobs said bespoke, principle based conferences.
This mixed message is bound to have generated confusion in the minds of consultants and potential users.
The method developed by Kathie Dannemiller and Robert W. Jacobs branched into two methods. The Dannemiller Tyson Associates version was named Whole-Scale™, and the Robert W. Jacobs version became Real Time Strategic Change.
The existence of two brand names for an almost identical offering has probably created further lack of clarity in the marketplace.
In the same way that everyone thinks they can create a good PowerPoint-centred conference—because they’ve been to conferences and seen how they work—everyone thinks they can create a good ‘round table’ conference.
The organisers think it’s simply a matter of brainstorming a bunch of activities and arranging them around the refreshment breaks and lunch period.
They have little or no knowledge of the general principles of adult education and group behaviour, and are unaware of the specific principles of Real Time Strategic Change.
RTSC has its roots in organisation development, which is rooted in the behavioural and social sciences. Perhaps this makes it less accessible to those who are not OD professionals.
How to address the ‘maximum group size is five people’ issue
In Real Time Strategic Change conferences, the participants are usually seated eight to a table. The academic researchers and David Gurteen have told us that this is three or four people too many.
However, the solution is simple. Have eight people sitting at each table, split into two groups of four. And, if circumstances permit, get rid of the tables altogether.
Divergent conversational work is done in the groups of four. Convergent work, such as merging and prioritising ideas, is done in groups of eight. This avoids having twice the number of report-backs from the small group sessions.
Combining Open Space Technology and Real Time Strategic Change
I mentioned earlier that most OS conferences could be improved by the inclusion of some RTSC‑based activities, and vice-versa.
The emphasis on one or other methodology will depend on the requirements of the particular project. Conference convenors and their professional partners should go into the first planning meeting with open minds, and not be advocates of any particular approach. A made to measure approach will emerge during the course of the meeting.
Engage & Co-create conferences stand to benefit the most from the hybrid approach.
Participants are seated in groups of four. Tables are not essential.
The conference begins with a welcome from the conference sponsor, who spells out the purpose of the conference and the challenge everyone is here to be address.
People work in small groups to identify all of the factors and issues that relate to the challenge. These are written on Post-it Notes, announced to the large group and posted on a row of boards at the front of the room.
Two volunteers cluster the Post-its into themes, which are announced to the large group.
Still in their small groups, people discuss what makes their hearts sink and what makes their hearts sing when they think about the challenge. The facilitator (carrying a microphone) visits each group in turn, and a spokesperson announces what came up in his or her group.
The chairs are rearranged into a circle, or concentric circles, and the Open Space briefing and agenda creation takes place.
Participants take part in two or three rounds of Open Space sessions exploring significant issues and themes that emerged during the Post-it Note activity.
Action planning and project initiation.
The sponsor thanks participants for their contributions and explains how the conference outputs will be fed into the larger programme of work.
How can we create a hybrid conference methodology and unlock its potential?
Here are some suggestions:
Develop a methodology for designing all three types of conference (Learn & Connect, Engage & Co-create, Ideas & Insights) from scratch. The methodology will take into account:
- Conference purpose and outcomes
- Design constraints
- Strategic considerations (e.g. how the conference will fit into the overarching programme of work)
- Framework (e.g. D x V x F > R | Challenge→Issues→Deep Dives→Planning | Voice→Cohesion→Action¹ | Custom)
- Macro and micro processes
- Specific activities
- Conference flow and activity sequencing
Invent a pattern language (along the lines of the excellent Group Works card deck—sample below) and a notation method similar to that used by choreographers (see Labanotation).
Group Works card deck (buy the 91-card deck for USD 25 or download the free pdf version)
Give the methodology a name—something that is capable of gaining widespread adoption, that works in all major languages, and that is applicable to all three conference purposes: Learn & Connect, Ideas & Insights, and Engage & Co-create.
Create, publish and market a user’s manual.
Develop a global network of word spreaders, trainers, facilitators and users. Foster the network and help it become a movement.
Those are my initial thoughts.
The article is a working document and I will be adding to it during the coming months.
Your own comments and suggestions will be very welcome, as long as they are constructive and not defending the status quo. There is no place for orthodox thinking on this website.
- Traditional conferences have had their day—Part 1
- Traditional conferences have had their day—Part 2
- Using Open Space Technology for Consumer Insight Discovery and Stakeholder Consultation
- Three main types of conference: Learn & Connect, Ideas & Insights, and Engage & Co-create
- An introduction to large group intervention methods
- The maximum group size for effective dialogue is five people
- Future Search
- Open Space Technology
- Real Time Strategic Change
- Search Conferences